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A look at historic Opening Days in baseball

Posted at 7:16 AM, Mar 25, 2014
and last updated 2016-04-08 08:38:11-04

Major League Baseball is loaded with quirky statistics, die-hard fans and odd superstitions.

On Friday, the Colorado Rockies celebrate Opening Day, a virtual holiday for some – a literal one in others – and yet another spring day where students might be fixated more on sports scores than test scores.

The Cincinnati Reds, baseball’s first professional franchise, historically conducted the season’s first game from 1876-1989 before a labor disruption forced the team to play in Houston to start the 1990 season. 

Here’s a look at some of the more notable Opening Days throughout baseball’s history.



April 14, 1910: Presidential offering

Politicians have been throwing ceremonial first pitches for more than 100 years. Some have been better than others.

U.S. President William Howard Taft became the first sitting president to do so when he lofted a toss at the Washington Senators’ home opener.

Other presidents followed the trend, including President Barack Obama.



April 16, 1940: Feller’s no-hitter

Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller did not allow a hit in the Cleveland Indians’ first game in 1940. Feller bested the Chicago White Sox in a 1-0 victory to start the season.

Known for his incredible fastball, the pitcher missed four seasons of baseball to serve in the Navy during World War II. He died Dec. 15, 2010. He continues to be the only player to start the MLB season with a no-hitter.



April 15, 1947: Robinson’s first game

Hall-of-Famer Jackie Robinson made his professional debut and broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier as the Brooklyn Dodgers topped the Boston Braves 5-3 at Ebbets Field.

All MLB teams retired Robinson’s jersey No. 42 in 1997 on the 50-year anniversary in 1997.



April 4, 1974: Aaron ties Ruth

Hank Aaron crushed a then-MLB 755 home runs throughout his illustrious career. But one of his most historic came on Opening Day as the Atlanta Braves took on the Cincinnati Reds.

Aaron launched a Jack Billingham pitch to tie the record in the season’s first game.

A few games later, he did this.



April 9, 1980: A fantasy season

Little did the baseball world know the 1980 season would be one of the most monumental in creating more incentive for millions of fans to analyze and scrutinize statistics.

Writer and editor Daniel Okrent (shown above, right) and a group of friends created the world’s first fantasy baseball league. The format eventually grew in popularity and gave fans a gateway to build franchises of players as they saw fit.



April 3, 1994: Night game

ESPN televised the first Opening Night game in 1994, a matchup where the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds 6-4.

Pitcher Bob Tewksbury (pictured above) got the win.

The Cardinals had played the first ever night game for Opening Day when the team beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2 in 1950.

Opening Night has become an ESPN staple and regularly begins the season before giving way to Opening Day. This year’s Opening Night matchup features the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.


April 1, 1996: Tragedy hits baseball

Baseball has dealt with various highs and lows, but the 1996 season started with a particularly tough day.

Home plate umpire John McSherry sustained a massive heart attack and died just seven pitches into the Cincinnati Reds-Montreal Expos game at Riverfront Stadium.

McSherry had planned to see a doctor about an irregular heartbeat but pushed off the visit to work Opening Day. The teams postponed the game.



April 4, 1999: Foreign soil

Major League Baseball ventured beyond the U.S. and Canadian borders when the Colorado Rockies played the San Diego Padres in Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico. Mexico had played host to MLB games before, but this was the first time a regular season opener took place there.

The Rockies thumped the Padres 8-2. While not done every season, MLB has continued to look for different places to start the season. This year, the Los Angeles Dodgers swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in a two-game series played in Australia (shown above).



April 1, 2013: Record breaking

At 20-years old, Bryce Harper became the fourth-youngest player to homer in the season’s first game as the Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins. An at-bat later, Harper became the youngest player in history to swat two home runs in his first game.

Photos provided by Getty Images.